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Fitness Articles  ›  Family & Lifestyle

Help Your Kids Love Their Bodies

Parent-Child Activities for Better Body Image

-- By Liza Barnes, Health Educator
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According to Kater, there are four common myths that parents need to address with their kids. Use the tips and activities below to combat negative influences and nurture the seeds of a healthy body image.

Myth #1: "How I look is more important than who I am.”
  • Read “Beauty and the Beast,” and discuss the idea of objectification.
  • Explore, together, the history of body ideals—corsets and Chinese foot binding are good places to start.
  • Page through a magazine together, noticing the unrealistic images that predominate the pages. Search for realistic standards that promote self-esteem and healthy lifestyles.
  • Watch a video that illustrates how the media's images of beauty are often fabricated.
  • Emphasize inner qualities in your children. Complement their accomplishments, good deeds and personalities.
Myth #2: “Everyone can be thin if they work hard enough.”
  • Teach your kids that every person has their own unique body type, and that complete control over body type and weight is not possible. Teach them that body shape is a lot like height—there’s not much they can do to change it.
  • Help them recognize and appreciate the wide variety of body shapes and sizes. Looking at the different body types of athletes make good examples—jockeys, swimmers, runners, wrestlers and baseball players all have different strengths thanks to their body shapes.
  • Help then understand that it is normal to experience an increase in body fat during puberty and throughout life. Teach them that this increase has a biological purpose.
  • Model respect for diversity by showing appreciation of your own body type. Don’t let your kids overhear you complain about your thighs or lament about how much you overate.
Myth #3: “Dieting is effective.”
  • Help them understand that severe caloric restriction is ineffective and unhealthy in the long term.
  • Focus on eating more healthy foods rather than eating fewer foods.
Myth #4: “Eating healthy and exercising is too hard, and no fun!”
  • Teach the importance of a balanced diet, and the pitfalls of relying on meals that provide little nourishment. The best way to teach this is by example.
  • Teach the importance of an active lifestyle, and how it can be fun as well as health promoting. Get active with your kids.
  • Choose fun fitness activities for that the whole family can enjoy.
Even when kids eat healthy foods and get plenty of exercise, there will still be a variety of body types, shapes and sizes. By teaching your children to accept and appreciate this diversity, they will become more accepting of themselves.
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About The Author

Liza Barnes Liza Barnes
Liza has two bachelor's degrees: one in health promotion and education and a second in nursing. A registered nurse and mother, regular exercise and cooking are top priorities for her. See all of Liza's articles.

Member Comments

  • 1KADDY
    Assessments done by schools 'to meet state requirements' are also a form of bullying and guilty of creating a bad body image. Their charts for borderline obese and obese BMIs are not realistic. Children come home crying more often than not. And it leaves parents scratching their heads and trying to pick up the pieces. - 5/24/2014 11:58:33 AM
  • Nice article. Makes me think.

    I have a daughter who is underweight... not overweight. We sometimes joke with her about "being in a car-seat until she goes for a driving test". She already knows about dieting from watching me, but this started before all of that.

    I gave up trying to get her to eat for a long time. Even as a baby, she would go days without eating and the pediatricians repeatedly said that "she will eat when she is hungry".

    I am just going to get healthy foods. I figure that the few times that she eats, at least she will be getting something nutritious. - 2/13/2014 12:55:11 AM
  • The challenge I have is my diet is warping HIS perceptions of normal. He'll say things like "Oh, I cant eat that because I'm watching my fat grams." And YES we have had the talk about "no foods are off limits, some foods are just treat foods." And there is NOTHING wrong with his body. He is FINE. - 4/15/2013 12:27:18 PM
  • Interesting article, but I respectfully disagree about not sheltering your children from the media. Especially when we are talking about children aged 8-11. There is no reason they have to be leafing through 17 magazine, or watching a super model documentary on Bravo. Parents need to monitor their children and can control what goes on in their own home. - 4/15/2013 9:19:00 AM
  • Good article. I have a son who has always been smaller than his age-mates, but at age 14 he started growing and bulking up and eating TONS so he thought he was getting heavy. I used the BMI calculator here in the SP Resources to show him he is at the perfect weight for his height. That really opened his eyes and he's relaxed about himself and accepted himself. - 1/19/2012 10:46:48 AM
  • I think one of the most important points was a little buried in the article: watch what you say about your own body and perceived shortcomings around your kids. When your kids are young, they model their behavior more on their parents than on anything they see or hear in the media. When you say things like "I hate my hips" or "my thighs are fat" or indicate that you feel guilty over a handful of chips or a piece of cake, your kids absorb that information. They associate being fat with being ugly and feeling worthless and start to view foods as bad or forbidden.

    If you want to raise kids with good self-esteem, work on your own! - 9/28/2011 9:30:06 AM
  • Good information for ANYONE, not just parents or children.
    The recommendations would work for anyone wanting to live a healthy life, lose weight, or develop a better body image.
    Well done! - 8/22/2011 12:05:55 PM
  • Actually, this is a great article for adults too... I'm actually going to do quite a few of those things on the list...if not all of them! - 7/31/2010 8:36:06 AM
  • Very good article. Thanks! - 7/27/2009 1:21:03 PM
  • This was a really good article and I will defintely pass this on to my cousin. She is dealing with weight issues at 13, she doesn't look like the rest of the girls in her class and I'm sure this has to be hard. I always try to encourage self-love and self-appreciation because if she can't love & appreciate herself then she won't expect that from others outside of family. - 9/9/2008 12:57:39 PM
  • If you haven't yet, check out that video that's linked in this article about media's distortion of beauty. They literally distort the photo, enlarging the eyes, lips, elongating the neck, etc. Even I could look like a model! :) - 4/5/2008 11:42:37 PM
  • If you haven't yet, check out that video that's linked in this article about media's distortion of beauty. They literally distort the photo, enlarging the eyes, lips, elongating the neck, etc. Even I could look like a model! :) - 4/5/2008 11:41:40 PM
  • My dd joined SPARKTEENS and has been learning so much about healthy diet and exercise. - 3/17/2008 8:16:28 PM
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